Ketamine, medicine or drug?

Charles McCarthy
Ketamine, medicine or drug?

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic agent, mainly used in veterinary practice, and it has a high hallucinogenic potential. This substance is derived from phencyclidine, which is used in medicine for its sedative, analgesic and above all, anesthetic properties..


  • How Ketamine Works
  • In what format is ketamine presented
  • Ketamine effects
    • Short term effects
    • Long-term effects
  • Side effects
  • Signs of ketamine dependence
    • References

How Ketamine Works

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic agent, whose name is due to the fact that it distorts visual and auditory perceptions, producing a sensation of isolation from the environment and from oneself. Ketamine produces effects similar to those of the drug known as PCP, whose action is generated on a type of glutamate receptor called the NMDA receptor.

Its action produces a powerful psychoactive effect that consists of a functional and electrophysiological dissociation between the thalamocortical and limbic systems. This prevents the higher centers from perceiving auditory, visual or painful stimuli without causing respiratory depression. The eyes remain open with a blank stare and nystagmus is usually seen. The clinical effect of Ketamine is defined as "somesthetic sensory block with amnesia and analgesia".

In low doses, it produces a decrease in attention, learning and memory capacity. At higher doses, ketamine can cause dream-like states and hallucinations; and in even higher doses it can cause delirium and amnesia.

As a drug, its consumption is increasingly popular in recreational settings such as discos and parties, it is included within the so-called "club drugs", among which are GBL, Mephedrone, Butandiol and 2CB, among others. Due to its psychotropic and dissociative effects. It is also popularly known as Powder K. However, it is easy to abuse it due to its potency and accidentally overdose..

In what format is ketamine presented

Ketamine can be purchased as a powder, tablet, or liquid. In its powdered form it can be inhaled through the nose or consumed orally mixed with a drink. In its liquid form it can also be injected. The effects of smoking or ingesting it tend to be less intense than if injected directly.

Due to the state of reverie and dissociation that this drug is capable of creating, where it is difficult for the user to move, and because it is odorless and colorless, ketamine has been used as a drug for rape.

Ketamine effects

Short term effects

The effects of ketamine last for about an hour. It starts about 2 to 5 minutes after the dose has been smoked or swallowed. If it is injected, they appear around 30 seconds after the injection has occurred..

The first sensation to appear is an overwhelming sense of relaxation, sometimes described as a full-body tinnitus. Some feel like they are floating and others even describe it as being outside of their bodies. Many experience hallucinations that can last longer than the anesthetic effects.

Higher doses can produce much more intense effects, and users speak of a feeling of complete and total detachment from their bodies. The effects are similar to those described by people who have had near death experiences, and it is described as being in the "K hole".

Other short-term effects are:

  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Cardiovascular effects such as hypertension and tachycardia.
  • Respiratory depression.
  • Hypersalivation.

Long-term effects

The main known long-term effects are:

  • Cognitive impairment.
  • Memory problems.
  • Depression.
  • Extreme anxiety.
  • Mental handicap.
  • Addiction.

Side effects

The drug has, of course, unwanted side effects that can be quite troublesome. Short-term side effects include "bad trips" or terrible hallucinations. As with all psychotropic drugs, the pleasure of the hallucination depends on the mood of the user, and if the user is trying to escape the unhappiness, the hallucinations are likely to be unpleasant..

The most common side effects include:

  • Disorientation and general confusion due to the anesthetic nature of the drug.
  • Double vision.
  • Redness of the skin.
  • Loss of appetite and weight.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Pain in the injection site.
  • Double vision.
  • Uncontrolled eye movements.
  • Unusually hot skin.
  • Rashes.
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficult, burning, and painful urination.
  • Dizziness, fainting, and lightheadedness when getting up.
  • Pale or blue lips, nails, and skin.
  • Excitement, nervousness, and restlessness.
  • See, hear and feel things that do not exist.

High doses of the drug can lead to what some describe as the "K hole," which can include intense and unpleasant visual and auditory hallucinations along with marked derealisation and a terrifying detachment from reality with a feeling of being "almost dead".

However, perhaps the most troublesome symptoms of ketamine are nausea and vomiting, since they can be very dangerous for those in the middle of a state of dissociated confusion, since they often end up in a supine position (face up ), presenting a serious risk of suffocation due to aspiration.

Signs of ketamine dependence

There are some reports of people who use ketamine rampant, and their behavior is very similar to that seen in some individuals dependent on cocaine or amphetamines.

Heavy ketamine users can develop tolerance and uncontrollable cravings for the drug, even if they do not experience withdrawal symptoms.


Maeng S, Zarate CA Jr. The role of glutamate in mood disorders: Results from the ketamine in major depression study and the presumed cellular mechanism underlying its antidepressant effects. Curr Psychiatry Rep., 2007.

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